Hypertension Rocks

The lowdown on hypertension…

HTN should be straightforward, so why is it confusing?

Part of the problem is terminology. Shayne and Pitts got it right in 2003 when they made sense of classifying different hypertensive scenarios. What in the world do accelerated, malignant, urgent and malignant HTN mean? I have no idea either. Here’s the Shane and Pitts BP breakdown….

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/ercast/HTN_FINAL_COMPRESSED.mp3]

Severely elevated blood pressure can be thought of in three ways:

Hypertensive emergency:

  • End organ damage because of severely increased blood pressure. In this scenario, BP should be lowered in the next 1 to 2 hours.

Hypertensive urgency: 

  • Severely elevated blood pressure in patients at high risk for acute end organ damage but without evidence of new injury.
  • This includes a history of prior end organ disease like CHF, unstable angina, renal failure, CVA, etc.
  • Do these patients need to be admitted or have immediate BP reduction in the ED?
  • Your decision will be physician comfort level based rather than evidence based, because there’s no evidence so say what’s the right thing to do. However, you should have increased vigilance. If the patient is discharged, set up a plan for BP reduction and follow-up in a day or two.

Uncontrolled Severe HTN.

  • Everyone else is in this  third group
  • The most important management piece here is good follow up.
  • You may end up starting these patients on antihypertensives in the ED, or maybe they’ll be referred for a BP recheck in a week because this was a first reading of high BP or they had an acute painful condition that confounded to the picture.
  • In the old system, where everyone with really high blood pressure but without end organ dysfunction was classified as an urgency, it was hard to organize treatment and disposition. With this grouping: emergency, urgency and uncontrolled severe HTN, I find it easier to organize my treamtent and disposition.

And now for some shownote goodness from Justin Arambassick

What lab tests should you think about before starting or changing BP meds?

  • Urine
    • This may be due to the hypertension itself or another disease process such as diabetes.
    • Either way, the drugs of choice in the setting of proteinuria are ACE inhibitors (e.g. lisinopril) or ARB angiotensin receptor blockers (e.g. losartan).
    • In general, no benefit to giving a combination of an ACE and an ARB.
  • Blood
    • Creatinine, if elevated:
    • ACE or ARB first line treatment, though start at low dose and monitor Cr
    • These medications may cause kidney injury by reducing GFR (glomerular filtration rate)
    • Contraindicated in bilateral renal stenosis
    • Monitor that the patient is not dehydrated or on other medications that may stress the kidney
    • If these meds are started, the patient must have good follow-up for creatinine and potassium monitoring.
  • Sodium
    • If low, avoid thiazide diuretics
    • Furosemide and loop diuretics do not affect as much, though you probably do not want to start loop diuretics either

Study Findings:

  • ALLHAT study findings [PDF]
    • No significant difference in all-cause mortality, fatal heart disease, or non-fatal myocardial infarction when chlorthalidone was compared with lisinopril or amlodipine
    • Decrease rate of heart failure after 6 years in chlorthalidone group compared with amlodipine
    • Study conclusion: thiazide-type diuretics are preferred first-step in antihypertensive therapy
    • ACE and a CCB are a more effective combination than ACE plus a diuretic.
    • Among the patients taking the ACEI/CCB combination, 81.7% had their BP controlled to < 140/90 mm Hg compared with 78.5% of the ACEI/HCTZ group.
    • Approximately 50% of patients still on only the designated study medication(no add-ons) at 30 months.
  • JN7 [HTML]
    • The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC 7)
  • General Rules:
    • First line treatment is a thiazide diuretic (chlorthalidone was the medication originally studied, not hydrochlorothiazide.) Chlorthalidone is more potent, though has more side effects than hydrocholorthiazide.
    • If a patient has severe asthma don’t start a beta blocker
    • If a patient has coronary artery disease,  ACE and a beta blocker
    • If a young healthy patient: ACE-I
    • If African American: thiazide diuretic or calcium channel blocker
    • Algorithmic approach to starting antihypertensive meds
Blood Pressure Chart
Blood Pressure Chart

Further Reading


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